If you're struggling to get pregnant, you're likely hearing from well-meaning loved ones to "just relax".
The advice also comes with an anecdote to support the advice about a friend's friend's friend who was told she couldn't get pregnant and then decided to take a week long vacation to Bali and BAM! she had proven the doctor wrong and was pregnant..with twins!
When you're facing fertility issues, that advice and these stories can feel frustrating, demoralizing and downright invalidating.
Recently, American model and actress Molly Sims, spoke up about fertility, shedding light on the truly devastating experience of failed cycles, miscarriages and fertility treatments. Having more and more people speak up about the realities of infertility, especially those who have a large platform to share it on, is tremendously powerful at reducing the shame and stigma couples feel when going through infertility.
But I know when she shared that she conceived her oldest on her honeymoon, completely naturally, I know it stung for a lot of women in the trenches of infertility.
Once again here's another story of a miracle conception, but why can't I experience that? so many women wondered.
What struck me though when she was sharing her story was that she kept referring to her frozen embryos as a "safety blanket" and she believed that helped her to get pregnant.
The truth is, Molly Sims is right.
For her, having frozen embryos may have helped her conceive because what she calls her "safety net" likely worked to bring down her anxiety about starting a family.
There is plenty of research that shows that stress and fertility don't mix. (Tweet that!)
High levels of stress and chronic stress impact a critical hormone necessary to conceive and sustain a pregnancy: progesterone.
Here's how it works:
Simply put, your adrenal glands, the little glands that sit on top of your kidneys, are responsible for producing cortisol, a stress hormone that's secreted to help you cope with physical and psychological stress.
High levels of cortisol in your bloodstream impact many hormones that are required for optimal functioning of your reproductive system. These hormones include estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone, among others.
This hormone imbalance sets the stage for many women's health problems such as PMS, fibroids, endometriosis and PCOS and is often a key player for infertility, recurrent miscarriages and anovulation.
In fact, research conducted at the University of California, San Diego has shown that women who are highly stressed during an in vitro fertilization cycle (IVF) ovulate 20% less eggs than women who are experience low stress before and during the cycle. (Klonoff-Cohen & Natarajan, 2004)
So in a way, Molly Sims was right! Her "safety blanket" of frozen embryos helped her to get pregnant!
Along with everything else she was already trying, she knew the source of her anxiety and took steps to manage it effectively allowing her to spontaneously conceive not one but three children.
Is it as simple as "just relax" like your loved ones are telling you? No.
But the underlying message is right. High stress is affecting your fertility.
Is stress management the cure for infertility?
Yes and no. Like anything with fertility, there are nuances and details we still don't completely understand yet so it highly unlikely that there is only one cure for infertility.
However, stress plays a tremendous risk factor in infertility and repeat pregnancy loss. Stress and anxiety is something that MUST be managed during your fertility journey along with your blood work, injections and ultrasounds if you want to get pregnant. (Tweet that!)
It starts with recognizing what your stress and anxiety triggers.
I'll give you a hint: they're often not what you think they are.
Stress triggers are like icebergs. You can spot the ones that are above the surface really easily, but most of them are hidden until you look really closely. (Tweet that!)
Once you've identified your triggers, it's important to manage them effectively every single day.
Stress management is not only about massages every once in a while, weekly acupuncture or having a date night once a month. Deep, long-lasting impact on your stress levels comes from small, daily habits that protect your health and wellness.
Here are some ideas you can try:
Journaling (here's how)
Daily brisk walk or jog
Lift weights if you're allowed by your doctor
Hum a song
Working through past grief
Sleep 7-8 hours per day
Laugh at least 2-3 times per day
Do something every day that brings you joy
Challenge your negative thoughts
Remember not all of these ideas will work for everyone. So try a few until you find one that you feel truly makes a difference.
If you've been wracking your brain trying to figure out how to get your stress under control as you're trying to start or expand your family, or you've tried everything but can't stick to anything that actually works...or you're just plain sick of feeling stressed out and ready to actually kick it to the curb to help you get pregnant, check out my Path to Baby Fertility Wellness program.
If it sounds like something you're interested in, we can jump on a call to be 100% sure the program will help you.